Separated for two weeks by the hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast and health concerns that kept their premature baby in a hospital there, only the thin walls of an incubator stood between Sheryl and Matthew Frught and their tiny son yesterday.
The Frughts, of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who fled the state two weeks ago with two older sons, were reunited with their 2-pound, 10-ounce baby in an emotional arrival outside Toledo Children's Hospital.
They excitedly videotaped the event while clutching and kissing one another as hospital employees stood by holding signs proclaiming "Toledo Loves You Dylan" and "Welcome to Toledo Frught Family."
What awaited the Frughts was a changed, more healthy baby boy - one who's been shuffled from hospital to hospital in recent weeks, but who's nearly doubled in size.
Gone are the wrinkles that caused his mother to dub him "the little old man." And the 6-week-old - who's already been through a heart surgery - was expected to be placed for the first time into his mother's arms, in a hospital far from the family's flooded home.
"He's just been a little fighter," Mrs. Frught said later as she watched a team of nurses care for her son in a newborn intensive care unit. "He really has been strong, remarkably strong to do this."
The Frughts left their home and little Dylan Frught in a hospital near their home just before the Hurricane Katrina hit, ultimately heading to a relative's house in Port Clinton.
Mrs. Frught, 33, said she didn't want to leave, but her father-in-law, Warren Frught, insisted she go with the rest of her family, and he'd stay behind to watch over his grandchild.
Days later, the worried parents lost contact with Mr. Frught, but they did have details about their son's condition and location, including a transfer from a New Orleans hospital to one in Baton Rouge.
The Frughts were reunited with the infant after ProMedica Health System leaders learned of the separation: They offered to transport the baby to Toledo Children's Hospital and continue to offer him care in the newborn intensive care unit.
ProMedica paid the $15,000 bill to send a transport team to Baton Rouge, where three hospital employees helped to loaded the baby onto a plane and watch over him - constantly checking his vital signs and his temperature - during the flight.
Dr. Howard Stein, a neonatologist at Toledo Children's Hospital who was on the flight, said the infant was stable on the trip. The doctor added that the baby's care will continue in Toledo in the same manner as it's been in the last few weeks.
One of the first things doctors will do is to work toward removing the infant from a ventilator. Dr. Stein said Dylan, who was born early at 24 weeks on July 24, should be able to leave Toledo Children's in the next six weeks to two months.
During that time, the Frughts are planning to remain in the Toledo area with Dylan and their other sons, Kyle, 8, and Austin, 15 months.
Family members in Louisiana are expected to take refuge in the Frughts' home and begin renovation work on it.
The Frughts repeatedly thanked hospital employees for their generosity, including help with future hospital bills. Ms. Frught said her husband lost his job as a result of the hurricane and their health insurance will expire in 60 days.
"I'm very thankful to the hospital for being so gracious in getting him here," said Mr. Frught's mother, Barbara Washington.
Mr. Frught said the family will remain in the area until Dylan is released from the hospital.
"There's brighter days ahead now that we have our baby back. We're going to call northern Ohio our home for a while," he said.
And he added that he doesn't think anything could keep his wife and their youngest son apart again.
"There's no way I can separate her from her [child] again, unless a hurricane hits here - and I don't think that's going to happen," Mr. Frught said.
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